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Tesla in traffic in Europe. Photo by Cynthia Shahan, CleanTechnica.


EU Climate Plan — Emissions-Free Cars For All (But Not Quick Enough), + Aviation, Shipping, & Other Matters

Originally published on Transport & Environment.
By Eoin Bannon

An EU plan to sell 100% emissions-free cars in 2035 will democratise electric vehicles in Europe, green group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. Cars are responsible for 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, and switching sales from polluting engines to fully electric is a crucial step to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century. A new carbon market for road fuels could, if approved, increase prices by around 5 cents a litre by 2028.

The Fit for 55 strategy published today will also end the tax exemption for polluting jet fuel, replace it over time with green alternatives, and accelerate the roll-out of electric charging for trucks. In sharp contrast, the EU’s heavy promotion of gas, a fossil fuel, in shipping will lock in decades of emissions.

William Todts, executive director of T&E, said: “This is a turning point for the auto industry and good news for drivers. The new EU rules will democratise electric cars and give a major boost to charging, meaning clean cars will soon be affordable and easy to charge for millions of Europeans. The problem is carmakers will only have to start selling those cleaner cars in 2030. Our planet cannot afford another nine years of big talk but little action from the auto industry.”

Cars & Vans

In 2030 carmakers must reduce emissions of new cars by 55%, rising to 100% in 2035, the European Commission has proposed. T&E said interim CO2 targets from 2025 will be needed to ensure carmakers ramp up production of emissions-free vehicles earlier, driving down costs and generating more consumer buy-in – just like Henry Ford did a century ago. In the last 18 months, the EU’s 2020–2021 targets have sent electric car sales soaring, allowing many Europeans to buy their first EV. But T&E warned that a weak CO2 target of -50% for vanmakers in 2030 will do little to drive electrification of the fastest growing road polluter.


There will be new targets for both electric car and e-truck charging points from 2025. Under the plan, EU countries will have to ensure there is sufficient charging capacity for the number of electric cars on the road, so that drivers can be confident they can charge wherever they live and work, and even when they holiday across borders. Emissions-free trucking gets a big boost through new targets for e-truck chargers on motorways and in major cities.

William Todts said: “For the first time, the EU is signalling the future of trucking is emissions-free. It’s requiring states to start building the chargers that will power the trucks of the future. This is great news.”

Aviation & Shipping

In a world-first, planes will have to start using sustainable fuels. The EU will require 0.7% of jet fuels to be green hydrogen-based e-fuels, which are near zero-carbon, by 2030, increasing to 5% in 2035, it was announced. Also, airlines will finally start paying tax on their fossil fuels just as motorists do at the fuel pump.

William Todts said: “It’s time to finally end aviation’s tax holiday. But it’s not good enough to just tax kerosene. We need to make aviation clean and the best way is with an ambitious e-fuel mandate to start the transition to green flying.”

Shipping, the world’s biggest climate free-rider, will be required to cut its emissions through the EU emissions trading system, the Commission proposed. However, T&E said the planned maritime “green” fuel mandate would actually boost the market for LNG, a fossil fuel, and unsustainable biofuels, instead of promoting green hydrogen-based e-fuels. Major ports would even be required to spend billions on new gas refuelling infrastructure.

William Todts said: “For too long shipping has been a climate anomaly. The EU will start making shipping polluters pay, but by pushing them to use gas and biofuels, the cure will be worse than the disease. We need a green maritime fuel law that promotes genuinely green e-fuels like ammonia instead.”

Energy, Carbon Pricing, & National Targets

The EU’s proposed green fuels law, the Renewable Energy Directive, is a missed opportunity, T&E said. The Commission plans to change the way it calculates green fuel targets but does nothing to bring an end to crop biofuels, which can emit more than the fossil fuels they replace. Instead the new law sets unsustainably high targets for advanced biofuels and hydrogen fuels. The Commission allows fuel suppliers to count renewable electricity towards meeting their targets. But it discriminates against renewable electricity by removing the extra weighting it was given, which reflected its higher efficiency.

William Todts said: “The new green fuel law is a big missed opportunity. We should be getting rid of palm and soy diesel that are trashing the rainforest right now. And instead of increasing the quota for so-called advanced biofuels, the EU should fully promote renewable electricity in cars and trucks.”

The Commission is also creating a carbon market for road and heating fuels, kicking in from 2026. This is expected to increase road fuel costs by around 5 cents a litre, but under the plan, half of the revenues would be given back to lower-income households. The Commission also proposed revising upwards the “effort sharing” national climate targets, which will push member states to take national measures, such as ending subsidies for polluting company cars, and support ambitious EU policies.

William Todts said: “Carbon pricing will only play a small part in cutting road transport emissions, but there can be a role for it. The Commission’s proposal will be rolled out slowly with very low carbon prices and the revenue will flow back to low and middle-income families. Despite this very minimalist approach, the plan faces a lot of opposition and it may be years before it’s agreed.”

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